Here I Go Again…

I want to share a common emotional roller coaster ride I’ve been on recently in Jakarta, as an expat mum. My beloved nanny of two years, suddenly quit her job and left immediately, even without saying goodbye to our kids.
She recently had two months off to get married and after returning to work for a couple of weeks, she resigned. (To add to the drama, she’s asked to return again after a few months of quitting!)
Unfortunately in a city like Jakarta, where there are so many nannies available, I find it extremely difficult to keep one employed for long periods. A nanny can unexpectedly resign, with no notice. It’s actually written into a standard work contract here. That a household staff member can resign by simply being absent from work for three days in a row. And no advance notice to the employer is required.
The most common reasons for resignation are marriages, pregnancies, career breaks, and caring of sick relatives. A scary time for employers in Jakarta is during Idul Fitri, where many nannies don’t return back to their employment. It’s a hot topic amongst the mum’s during that season!
My nanny is such a crucial part of our family. Not only is she adored by my children, I also invest so much of my energy and heart with her so that she becomes a surrogate caretaker. So when we are faced with having to find a new one, again, it’s sad and emotionally exhausting. But you know what really upsets me the most in about this situation? The fact that I feel powerless. With the drop of a hat, an important person in my children’s lives can leave and I am the one to pick up the pieces (and pretend it’s ok, I’m ok, for the sake of the children, of course).
This isn’t the first time it’s happened. It always seems to be during the most critical times, like just before the birth of a baby, or illness. Or when things are running smoothly and I think to myself ‘I’m so happy right now, things are going great!’ And then, boom! A nanny quits!
It’s moment like these that I feel so alone, betrayed and helpless. I feel bitter for relying on someone else for help. I feel weak and a failed mum for needing a nanny in the first place.
What I’ve come to realize is that no matter how much I pay or incentivize my nanny, she is in her very own right, her own person. She has no obligation to me or my family, other than to do her job.
This is when I feel extremely guilty as a expat mum for not providing my children with consistent care or a ‘normal’ non expat environment, where they have their extended family or lifelong friends around in their upbringing. People who I don’t have to pay, to help raise my kids. I get extremely envious of my friends back at home, who have aunties, uncles, cousins and grandparents; neighbors and friends, who establish a permanent village.
So here we go again, with a new nanny. She’s quickly adapted into our family. A positive from this all is that my kids have grown resilient to the constant changes.
The other day I thought to myself how happy I with our new nanny, and discovered that she too, will be getting married soon. And I know what that means….
Rinka Perez Gunn

A Million Things To Do in Jakarta

I recently spoke to an Indonesian friend of mine about how great Ancol is for children and was bewildered to discover that he hadn’t visited Ancol since he was a younger child, 20 years ago! He lives in Jakarta and has three kids!

This conversation has inspired me to start a new Instagram series with 1,000,000 different things that expats (and locals) should do and discover in Jakarta. It will be somewhat of a ‘Bucket List’.

Stop making excuses about traffic and go on this wild ride with me!

Follow me @the_expat_housewife_of_jakarta

Mummy’s Night Off – Jakarta’s Night Life Instagram Series

It's the first day of the new school year and after a long, exhausting two months of having my kids at home on school holidays (and no nanny); I am so over anything to do with children!

That's why I am going to start a new Instagram series of venues and fun things for expat housewives in Jakarta. So book your nanny, get a blow wave and join me in discovering this vibrant city!

Follow me @the_expat_housewife_of_jakarta

The Invisible Expat Princess

Once upon a time, in a land, lush, and green; there lived a princess. Like many princesses of her time, this princess didn’t believe in sitting in her tower and waiting for her Prince Charming to appear. So instead, she worked hard, studied, and built her own castle. She embraced her freedom and traveled the world. She danced with frogs on table tops, jumped into the sky and swam with creatures of the ocean. 

During one of her crazy adventures, she collided with her Prince Charming and madly in love, they got married. The prince was suddenly summoned to work in lands, far, far, away; so the princess left her magical kingdom and followed her new prince. This is when a powerful spell was cast upon the princess. As soon as she left her kingdom abode, she became invisible. 

This was a very unique spell because it grew stronger with time. Whenever the princess moved to a new land or had another baby, she disappeared even further. The princess thought that she was being punished for doing something wrong. And so she tried tirelessly to be good. She thought that if she gave more of her self, more of her mind, body, spirit and soul, she could break the spell. It didn’t work and she eventually accepted her fate and lived her life as being unseen…

I recently took a break from Jakarta. With amazing love, and selfless support from my Prince Charming, he forced me out of the door and took care of our children (now this is during Idul Fitri with no nanny or maid! 😱) He gave me space to reconnect with myself and travel to Europe. On. My. Own. 

It wasn’t easy for me to leave my family. I had never fathomed a trip away before. I accepted my life and role in our household, and for the most part, I happily embraced it.

The vacation itself had many challenges. I had constant feelings of guilt and sadness. Sadness for being away from my family and guilt for loving every second of it. Sadness for feeling like I’d lost myself. Sadness for feeling guilty for doing things that I loved, and for my own pleasure only. And the biggest sadness of all…is that I had fallen down into such a deep spell of feeling invisible and I accepted this nothingness as being normal. 

Well, on this vacation, I let my emotions outpour, felt the highs and lows. I tried to be kind to myself and began to fall in love with myself again.

I did things that I never allowed myself to do at home. Like sleeping in a bed on my own without being interrupted by my kids. Eating a complete meal that I enjoyed, rather than picking on left over scraps from my family. Drinking my coffee while it was hot. Going out and socializing without worrying what time I should get home or whose needs I should tend to in the morning. Talking about myself as an individual person, with no relation to how many children I have, or what job my husband does. Sunbathing. Listening to songs that I liked with explicit swearing. Watching three movies in a row, on my plane ride. Being seen as a person, as me. 

Although I can’t say that my journey to self discovery is complete, all of these things definitely helped me to get out of that ‘mummy and wife mode’ that I was stuck in. I felt like I was reappearing in the world again. And the most unbelievable thing happened when I returned home. I felt like my husband and children saw me differently, and I felt a positive shift too. An intangible change that I can’t explain but it definitely has been good for all of us. 

One day, a hungry dragon tried to enter into the princess’ castle! The princess quickly leaped up with her sword and fiercely swung it towards the dragon. This scared the dragon away. That night, the princess couldn’t sleep. Something inside of her had awakened. Where did her power and bravery come from? How did the dragon see her? Wasn’t she invisible?

This was the night she realized that there was no spell. She wasn’t invisible! She had chosen to shrink. She was never unseen; she simply stopped slaying dragons and hid behind her prince. She took off her tiara and slipped on her crown. She took a sip of wine, kicked down the door to her castle and walked outside with her sword, ready to fight! And then she lived happily ever after.

Shattering of my Heart

I just said goodbye to my mum. She has been visiting us for the past month from Australia. I see her about twice a year. Personally, this isn’t nearly enough because I can see how much joy her grandchildren bring into her life and how much my kids love her. 
I hate having to say goodbye. It’s so heartbreaking. Truly one of the worst parts about living abroad. And it’s constant goodbyes. Each home visit, we have to eventually leave again. Each visiting relative or friend, has to leave us. I won’t even mention the constant moves of our expat friends! 
Each time, my heart shatters a little more but I have to remain strong. Yes, I show that I’m sad but I don’t like to make a big deal out of it. I don’t want my children to sense that deep down inside, I am missing home so much and wish that this tormenting part of being an expat would end. I want to be a strong role model and teach my children (and remind myself) to enjoy our life now and live here. Jakarta is our home now. We are home. Seeing grandma twice a year is our normal. We are happy. 
The ironic thing about my mum leaving is that our relationship is so much better when we are living in different countries! She also gets very overwhelmed by staying with 3 young kids. Her visits are intense. She doesn’t want to explore our city, she just wants to spend time with her grandchildren. I want her to feel at home and constantly welcomed, even if during certain times, this is difficult for me. I think most expats are fiercely independent (hence why we chose this life), so it’s difficult for me to be suddenly living with my mum again! 
I always wonder, how much longer should we sustain this expat lifestyle? My mum is getting older each year and I honestly don’t want my children growing up, and living so far away from her. I worry about her health, her safety, her emotional well being. I worry that if something happens to her, I am too far away. And not having grandparents growing up myself, I truly want this gift for my children. I’ve always wanted my children to be surrounded by their extended family, so why am I doing this?!
The worst part right now is that as much as my heart is breaking, I know my mum’s is a million times worse. She’s left her world behind in Jakarta, crying on a plane, all by herself. And I can’t be there to give her a hug. I’ll miss you mum! 

Summer Holiday Fun – Photo Series

I will be starting a series of photos on Instagram during the long summer school holidays. Since I’m staying in Jakarta, I want to try and see as much of it as I can and enjoy it with my kids. 

Join me daily and count down the days until the new school term starts again! 

You can view my photos on my Instagram account @The_Expat_Housewife_of_Jakarta or at my Facebook page. 

Jakarta during Ramadan and Hari Raya Idul Fitri

Jakarta is a different city in June and July. Ramadan is the month long of fasting practiced by Muslim Indonesians during dawn to sunset. This year it will be from May 26th to June 25th of June. This period is also the summer holidays for international schools with the school break lasting for approximately two months. Expats like to take advantage of this time by returning home to their country of origin to enjoy the warmer months or go on a family vacation to popular locations like Bali or Singapore.

I find that this is a very quiet time of the year for Jakarta and it’s quite pleasant to be out and about. Whilst many malls will be busy, restaurants are empty during the day (they are very busy at night once break fast has started). Outdoor locations and recreational spots like parks and The Zoo are also quiet so its actually a good time to visit these locations without huge crowds. I also enjoy the simplicity of having a free agenda and no pressure with no school drop offs or playdates to rush to.

The end of Ramadan is Idul Fitri or Lebaran (25th June), the most important day in the Islamic calendar. If you have household staff members working for you, they are entitled to a mandatory two week period of paid leave. Many expats dread this time of the year because all staff members are on holiday simultaneously! Although some staff members may choose to work, the majority will decide to take this time off. It’s like our Christmas and New Year’s eve. This is the week where many workplaces shut down and people are on holiday mode so I think it would be very unfair of us to expect our staff to work during this festive season.

Most Indonesians will return back home to their province and leave the Big Durian for the week. The few days leading up to Idul Fitri is mayhem. This not the time to travel or be on the road! The streets are jam packed with literally 10 million Indonesians on their commute home. The roads are actually quite dangerous and many traffic accidents can occur during this time. I highly recommend to stay away and if you have staff members returning home, allow them the care and courtesy to travel before these few days to avoid the chaos. My nanny spent last year on the road for two days straight, crammed into a tiny bus full of people with no air conditioning and no water! She was terribly ill at the end the journey and she said a few people actually died!

This is when Jakarta becomes a ghost town. The streets are empty, shops are closed and no one is around. This year, we are happily staying in Jakarta once again for the third year running. We really love Jakarta this time of the year! It’s quiet, calm and there is no traffic! It’s our special family time in Jakarta where we wind down and enjoy the simple things in life like lots of television, take away food and pool time! I know many expats are afraid of the idea of staying in Jakarta during this period, fearful of the unknown. Basically, nothing really changes here, except no one is around. The shops only closed for the full day or two during Idul Fitri. Groceries, taxis and other services are readily available as usual afterwards. Tourists spots like The Zoo, Tamin Mini or Ancol are jammed packed with local tourism after Idul Fitri, so I recommend not going to any of these spots unless you like wading through huge crowds! Many Indonesians love to picnic and will use this time of the year to enjoy the outdoors with their family.

I must admit, the thought of having no nanny and maid made me really scared this year because it was so difficult last year to manage it all on our own (the kids were so young then) but I’m now looking forward to reconnecting with my family. It is my opportunity to take away that mother’s guilt that I constantly have for having a nanny in the first place and parent my kids without any outside distractions. The house will be messy. The dishes will be crusty from sitting on the sink for too long, and we’ll probably lounge in our pajamas all day but we’ll soak the stillness of the city together and remain grateful for living in Jakarta.

Below is a helpful website that I found that explains this Indonesian holiday, their traditions and salary requirements quite well  Public Holidays Indonesia

A Seaside Stroll

Last Friday was a public holiday (again!) so we decided to get out of the big smokey Durian and go somewhere we can walk around with the kids. Explore our city some more and force myself to get out of our condo.
My husband suggested Ancol Beach City. We haven’t been there before and I was eager to go somewhere outside of a mall. Ancol is easily accessible, located in the north side of Jakarta. Its a small island that you pay a toll to enter and there is A LOT to do there! There is an aquarium, water park, amusement park, cable car, zip lining, a really fun looking photo gallery (called Alive Museum) and Eco Park with animals and lots of greenery that I would definitely love to explore again next time. Now, just as a waiver, it is still in Jakarta so don’t expect it to be like Tokyo Disneyland with everything brand new and modern but its a nice spot for families. As an expat living here, I think its one of those places that you need to give a fair chance and go in with a positive attitude.

On Friday we decided to go for a short stroll only and wasn’t cut out for an entire day there, mainly due to the heat. So we went for a walk along the beach where the pier is. The pier itself is in a heart shape with a local cafe at the end (we decided not to stop at this one) and a spot where lovers (obviously those without kids and have time for such things) put their padlocks on for ever lasting love. We really enjoyed our walk. It had a nice friendly vibe to it with lots of families and young Indonesians spending a day out at the beach, taking photos and selfies with their selfie sticks. My tip is to bring scooters for the kids and perhaps go in the afternoon when he sun isn’t as strong.

There were also a lot of Indonesians swimming at the beach however we decided not to swim at this beach. Our kids were happy enough to play in one of their many playgrounds and enjoy a small train ride.

By this time, we were dripping in sweat and hungry, so we decided to drive to Pluit, which is about half an hour away. I love Pluit! It’s so different to central and South Jakarta. The houses there are huge, like mansions in Beverly Hills with their own private jetty and big power boats! My most favourite thing about Pluit is the boardwalk along the ocean.
We had lunch at my favorite restaurant there, The Jetski Cafe. I highly recommend this restaurant for kids and any visitors that you may have. The location of the cafe showcases another side of Jakarta that is rare. Wide ocean views, shaded outdoor dining with cute wooden love swings, delicious seafood and a place to walk! Every time I go to Pluit, I feel refreshed and recharged. Its quiet and I feel like I’m in a seaside harbour town, far, far away from Jakarta. Its honestly a beautiful spot for expats who are losing their minds in traffic and the business of the malls here. Jakarta is so under rated!

Making Friends in Expat Land

One of the best things for me as a mother with young children is being an expat at the same time. I think that if I were to have my children back in Australia, I would have struggled to make other mummy friends. My best friends had their children a lot younger than than I did, so there would be no playdates with them. I also think its more difficult making friends as an adult outside of work or university. Most women already have their core group of friends from childhood and they are not in the market for new friends. Yes, as a new mother I would have been set up with a local community playgroup but the demographics of that group may not be compatible for me. Also, I think that mothers are simply too busy to make new friends in Australia. They are washing, cleaning, cooking, juggling school runs, and making a living to pay the bills.

As an expat however, its the complete opposite. Especially in Jakarta. The market is saturated with other expat woman who are looking for new friendships! Continue reading